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Funding needed to renovate several public schools

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Lawmakers continued the fourth day of session focusing on measures aimed at a renovating and rebuilding several of the island's public schools.  

Lawmakers continued session today first tackling a measure that aims to renovate and construct a new Simon Sanchez High School. Bill 225 had its public hearing a few weeks ago drawing a packed house of supporters. The bill has since been revised by Speaker Judi Won Pat that wouldn't just amend an existing law but increased the cap of the real property tax evaluation from $7 million to $8.5 million and would reprogram money originally for the Okkodo High School expansion to the renovation of the Home of the Sharks. The newest version meanwhile also includes funding for an early childhood program fund.

Senator Ben Pangelinan had some concerns with the bill at how it tackled unrelated appropriations to the subject matter along with how it would have an impact on the budget and the revenues. He suggested lawmakers suspend discussion. "We reported this out to the body and very much reluctantly and I have the reputation of not reporting out people's bills, so I said let the body decide knowing that we would have to raise these issues and so forth and I'm going to question all of the germanous of all of the amendments in here with regards to what we're trying to do," he said.

The bill's co-author Senator Aline Yamashita however defended the bill saying it is a creative way of tying in different aspects of education including early childhood. "And I know I heard some on the floor saying it's not related, but it is related in the idea that it's connected to education, that there's money that we want to say are going to be tagged for the schooling system beginning at the very beginning," he said.

A companion measure meanwhile was also discussed that would take a holistic approach of discussing not just Simon Sanchez but the renovation and rehabilitation of the island's 36 other schools. "But it is a creative way in which we'll be able to do a short term bridge financing with the business privilege tax, as you know that won't mature until 2019 but if you're able to capitalize the interest, then the money could be available, from my understanding from bond counsel, is that down to two years making it 2017," said Speaker Won Pat.

If the bill sounds familiar, its because it held the same intent as Senator Brant McCreadie's Bill 218 that identified a sum of $4.8 million from the maturity of Business Privilege Tax Bond Series 2013. Won Pat said with the $4.8 million, it would yield close to $80 million to be able to address the three dozen schools.

McCreadie's bill had a public hearing but didn't make it on session floor. The freshman senator said he supported the bill 100%, calling it a step in the right direction. "You know building a new school for Simon Sanchez shouldn't be the vision of just one person, rather it should be the responsibility of this entire body it's the leadership of this legislature that should define the reality and act on something before it becomes an emergency when we talk about Simon Sanchez High School, it's a reality and the reality is its an emergency," he said.

The appropriations chair meanwhile again voiced his concern with the companion measure saying the Department of Education the matter was being addressed in the budget DOE had just passed questioned whether lawmakers should be integrating the two processes.  

Both bills were eventually sent to the Third Reading File. McCreadie along with the six other sponsors of Bill 218 were added on as co-sponsors to the Won Pat measure. 

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